• The Weekly Read: January 13, 2020

    Would Mike Bloomberg mind being president? Of course not. Does he believe he could do at least as good a job as the other Democrats in the race — let alone the incumbent? Goes without saying. Does he think there’s a snowball’s chance in a hot yoga class he’ll win the Democratic nomination and go on to become the 46th President of the United States?

    Mike Bloomberg may be vain, but he isn’t stupid. He didn’t become the 9th richest person in the US and the 14th richest person in the world by throwing away money on quixotic quests or vanity projects. At least not the kind of money — a few hundred million — he’s already spent running for president since he formally entered the race in late November.

    Or the billion, give or take, he’s pledged to spend through next November to defeat Donald Trump regardless of who the Democrats nominate. Even if, as THE NEW YORK TIMES reported, it’s Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. (“I really don’t agree with them,” he said of Sanders and Warren, “but I’d still support them, yes, because compared to Donald Trump that’s easy.”)

    Is he in it to win it? Or is he up to something else?

    Bloomberg, the grandson of immigrants and son of an accountant, accumulated his $56 billion fortune by knowing how to stretch a dollar. And it turns out that if you believe Donald Trump is an existential threat to the country you love and the global issues you most care about — climate change, gun safety, women’s rights, including the right to choose — you can stretch hundreds of millions of them a lot further by running for president instead of just starting a super PAC.

    The other Democratic candidates are focusing all their time on the first four states voting to choose the Democratic nominee — Iowa, and to a lesser extent New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — none of which are really in contention next in November. (The Democrats could win Iowa, but it’s far down the list of tipping point states likely to alter the outcome of a close election.)

    Meanwhile, Trump has been running a general election campaign and spending an historic amount of money unopposed in the states where the White House will be won or lost:  Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina.

    Bloomberg made an unprecedented decision not to compete and spend money in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina. Instead he’s spending a fortune on TV ads in those swing states the other Democrats are unfortunately, if understandably, ignoring.

    That decision makes it very unlikely Bloomberg will be the nominee — but increases the odds the eventual nominee will beat Trump.

    If there’s a vain billionaire running a quixotic campaign in this race, it’s Tom Steyer, who’s pouring millions of dollars into Iowa and the other early states to get on the leader board, but far from the top tier of candidates.

    Bloomberg’s swing state TV ads are solely focused on the general election and purely about Trump. They don’t even mention Bloomberg by name.

    And it turns out that as a presidential candidate Bloomberg can buy those local TV ads at significantly discounted rates compared to what he’d have to pay for them through a super PAC. Local TV stations are also required to sell ad time to presidential campaigns, and run their ads as-is. They’re not required to sell ads to super PACs, and if they do, they can force them to make editorial changes to those ads.

    Take Sinclair Broadcasting, a rabidly pro-Trump company that owns nearly 200 local stations reaching about 40% of US homes. It’s required to sell ads to candidate Bloomberg and broadcast them as-is. It could refuse to sell ads to a Bloomberg super PAC, or demand changes to them that would make airing them pointless.

    And take Facebook. As a candidate, Bloomberg can place digital ads that aren’t subject to Facebook’s fact-checking process. Fact-checking is usually a good thing. But not so much when Facebook counts, for instance, Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller as a trusted fact-checking news source on par with The New York Times.

    Big picture, Bloomberg is using his presidential campaign as a vehicle to create what the Times calls a shadow campaign operation for the general election, complete with hundreds of organizers in key battleground states and a robust digital operation, ready to be inherited by the party nominee.”

    He’s hired 500 staffers in 30 states, including battleground states like Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. And in Texas, where he plans to open 17 offices and keep the major ones operational through the general election.

    In addition to his presidential campaign spending, Bloomberg has also pledged $10 million to back vulnerable House Democrats running for reelection, and up to $20 million on voter-registration drives and voter protection efforts in battleground states, including $5 million to Stacey Abram’s Fair Fight.

    The Bloomberg-funded registration drive will target 500,000 voters from traditionally underrepresented groups that typically lean Democratic, including African Americans, Latinos, Asians, young voters, and residents of rural communities.

    All these organizing efforts will help the eventual Democratic nominee and also have major down-ballot effects in state and local races.

    Is it a good thing a mega-billionaire can spend unlimited amounts of money running for president? No way. But for now, it’s the world we live in. And if you have unlimited resources and are determined to defeat Donald Trump, Bloomberg’s approach is the way to do it. Far from an out-of-touch billionaire embarked on a doomed self-serving vanity project, Mike Bloomberg is an American hero.


    THE WASHINGTON POST Biden holds wide lead among black voters in Democratic presidential race, Post-Ipsos poll finds. The poll finds the former vice president is far and away the favored Democratic candidate for black Americans, boosted by his personal popularity, his service in the Obama administration, and perceptions he is best equipped to defeat Trump. Six in 10 black Democratic voters identify as moderate or conservative, and Biden gets 58% support among this group, compared with 14% for Sanders and 8% for Warren. Biden is favored by 53% of black Democratic voters in the South. A majority of blacks who lean Democratic (58%) say the most important they want in a nominee is a likelihood of beating Trump.

    Biden, Sanders and Warren supporters also chose Biden, Sanders or Warren as their second choice for the nomination. So, as Jonathan Capehart noted in THE WASHINGTON POST, “for African Americans in this survey, a white Democratic nominee is fine by them.”

    The poll throws cold water on the conventional wisdom (shared by me, frankly) that if the Democratic nominee is white, the vice president will likely be a person of color. Say, Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams. But 72% of those polled said it was not important to them personally that a white nominee choose a black running mate, including 38% who said it’s “not at all important.” That’s compared to the 27% who said it was “fairly” important.

    There’s also a notable generation gap among black Democrats. Among those 65 and older, Biden leads by 60 points. Sanders leads by 12 points among those under 35. That could matter in the fall if it leads to lower turnout among younger African Americans.


    Capehart writes that the poll tells him his Aunt Gloria was right when he spoke to her at a family barbecue: “I asked her why she thought Biden was the person to take on Trump. Her answer left me slack-jawed and remains the best explanation for Biden’s continued strength. ‘The way the system is set up now, there is so much racism that it’s going to have to be an old white person to go after an old white person,’ Aunt Gloria said. ‘Old-school against old-school.’”


    VOX The Trump administration’s subtle, devious plan to dismantle abortion rights. Roe v. Wade doesn’t mean much if no one can sue to enforce it. Ian Millhiser writes that in March, the Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases — June Medical Services v. Gee and Gee v. June Medical Services — that together “present the greatest threat to the right to an abortion in decades.” The Trump Administration will try to convince the Court to adopt an argument about who can sue to challenge laws restricting abortions that “could make it nearly impossible for anyone to obtain an abortion in states that bar the procedure.” This has been a goal of the GOP for more than a generation, and the installation of Brett Kavanaugh on the Court has put it finally within reach.


    THE NEW YORK TIMES Trump Fails to Quash E. Jean Carroll’s Defamation Suit. Meanwhile, a judge this week denied Trump’s request to dismiss Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him. Last June, Carroll went public with a compelling case that Trump raped her 20 years ago and lied about it. The judge also denied Trump’s request to delay the exchange of evidence between the parties. Keep an eye on this space.


    THE NEW YORK TIMES She Was a Star of New York Real Estate, but Her Life Story Was a Lie. Faith Hope Consolo had the entire press fooled, including us. Then a message came in. “Wrapped in furs, dripping with diamonds and with her blond hair perfectly coifed, Faith Hope Consolo cut a glamorous figure in the flashy, late 20th-century world of New York City real estate. In late 2018, Ms. Consolo died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 73. As someone who had covered her for years, I wrote her obituary confirming her place in this rarefied world. But those details, I soon discovered, were lies.” Read the whole thing.



    You can follow Steve Lichtman during the week on Twitter @stevel3000.